36 krishnaarchana april 2023 FEATURE By Pt. Santhosh Krishnan Vedanta, the journey of self-discovery Hinduism or Sanatana (eternal) Dharma is a paradox of various beliefs, customs, and traditions. Even there is a common perception that there are 330 million deities (trayastrimsati koti) worshiped by Hindus. However, realistically this multiplicity represents the interconnection between “samsara” (reincarnation), “karma” (all actions and their consequences), and “moksha” (freedom from the cycle of reincarnation). It also explains the relationship between Jiva (the life force or simply living beings), Jagat (the world or in a higher sense ‘the universe’), and Ishvara (the divinity or God). Even so, the ‘Vedas’, roughly translated as “knowledge” or “wisdom” (from the Sanskrit word “vid,” meaning to know), serve as the foundation for Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma. Vedas are among the earliest compiled literary works in human history, though the date of their composition or compilation cannot be determined precisely, as they have been passed down through generations by literary oral tradition from time immemorial. The initial hymns of the Vedas mainly sing praises and worship the natural forces in the form of Agni (Fire), Indra (the lord of rains), Mitra (the Sun God or Aditya), and other gods for the harmony and welfare of mainly an agrarian society. However, the contents gradually progress to more dominant discourses about cosmology, the existence of the universe, and the mystic forces that balance the rhythm of the universe, bringing in the central theme of the philosophy of ‘not about what exists’, but ‘what should be the real existence’. Subclassification of the Vedas shows this progression through the ‘Samhitas’, which are mantras, prayers, etc., the ‘Aranyakas’ constituting the ritualistic aspects, the ‘Brahmanas’, the literal commentaries on the hymns, and the ‘Upanishads’, the dialogues intended to reveal the philosophy of the Vedas. While exploring the ideas, teachings, practices, and the philosophy in the Vedas, six main schools of philosophical Hinduism emerged - Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. Upanishads are synonymous with Vedanta (“the culmination of the Vedas”) since they are the concluding portions of the Vedas. Vedanta is composed of two words: “Veda-Knowledge” and “Anta” which mean “the end of ” or “the goal of ”. Hence Vedanta literally means ‘the goal of Knowledge’. Throughout this context, the concept of knowledge is not just purely intellectual, referring primarily to the literal knowledge acquired from scriptures. Thus, Vedanta opens the way to explore the larger objectives derived from the Vedas. Typically, human transactions are directed toward the outer world through the five sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin). These five senses allow us to perceive the external world and our existence. Add with this the mind, which is active even at the three planes ’Avastha Thraya’ of Jagrut, Swapna, and even Sushupthi (Wakefulness, Dream, and Deep sleep). All these experiences, however, are not permanent, and subject to constant changes. Such impermanent associations produce transient results,whether they bring happiness or sorrow, will pass. Furthermore, it creates a distinction between oneself and others, giving rise to the perception of ‘I’ or ‘Ahankara’. The ‘Nithya’ or the eternal should, therefore, be explored. Hence a fourth state of Turiya – the state of transcendental, or pure, consciousness in which the focus with both outward and inward at the same time is defined. To accomplish this state, Vedanta recommends ‘selfexploration’ called ‘Atma Vichara’. Vedanta calls impermanent outside existence ‘Maya’, or ‘Midhya’- an illusion more broadly. For example, a mirage could be taken for a lake, or a rope for a snake, until its true nature is revealed. In Vedanta the distinction between Nithya and Anithya is made using examples of clay and pots made from it, and gold and ornaments. Gold and clay have actual existence, as opposed to products derived from them. Understanding Vedanta requires